Real Time Updates: Aircraft and Weather
New ADS-B based aircraft tracking overlay, and hundreds of additional weather stations and statistics are now live in CalTopo alongside some cleanup of the layer list. More details about both these overlays can be found below. Access to some overlays will change slightly as part of this improvement as highlighted below.
Above: Aircraft layer over California displaying “All” Aircraft
Aircraft Layer (ADS-B)
We’ve added a real time aircraft data layer which is based upon ADS-B data from aircraft. This feature is available to all pro, desktop, and team users. Inherent to ADS-B are a couple of limitations to be aware of. There must be a receiver that can “see” the aircraft and report their locations, and the aircraft must have an ADS-B transceiver turned on. At times low flying aircraft particularly in remote valleys, or after landing will not be visible on the map. These are expected limitations, however overall ADS-B coverage is good and no filtering or blocking of military, firefighting, or medical air assets is done by the data provider.
Organizations can leverage this feature to track air assets responding to their incidents such as helicopters or fixed wing assets. If a tail number is known it makes finding and displaying that resource quite easy, but we’ve also included a number of filters. In the near future organizations will be able to add specific tail numbers and create a permanent track on search maps as needed.
Enthusiasts can also track air assets with the additional context of CalTopo topographic layers, and overlays. The example shown on the right displays aerial operations at the Dixie fire in California, several air tankers and helicopters are visible. Clicking on an aircraft displays altitude, airspeed, and additional information as available about the aircraft.The show track option allows for a short tail to be displayed in order to provide insight into where the aircraft has been as well as its direction of travel and relative speed.
All visible aircraft are displayed including high flying commercial aircraft, though our focus was on optimizing visibility of rescue and firefighting aircraft with a mapping context. This layer continues to be a work in progress and we welcome questions or feedback. We will continue to make incremental improvements and tweaks over the next weeks.
Above right: Colors based upon temperature. Above left: Colors based upon wind speed
Fortunately or unfortunately our real time weather station layer became inoperable a number of months ago due to changes at our former data provider. We have since moved to a much more robust data source that contains a significantly larger number of weather stations throughout the US and includes data in Canada. Many stations also report additional variables as compared to our previous data source such as relative humidity and air quality. This expanded coverage and high quality data, comes with significant cost increases for CalTopo. As a result, this layer will only be available to Pro, Desktop and Team users beginning in October. Until that time the realtime weather will remain available to free and mobile users. Note that this includes the former SNOTEL and water gauge overlays (which are now enhanced with additional data as well).
Each station is now colored based on a selected variable such as temperature, or air quality allowing at a glance assessment of current conditions across a wide region. The former individual water gauge and SNOTEL real time data overlays are now integrated
into this layer as part of the drop down selections with additional data sources, these overlays are now enhanced with additional snowfall measurement sensors and flow meters.
Clicking on an individual station reveals more information about data collected by that specific station including some basic information, temp, wind speed, etc. There is also a link for a customizable and interactive 7 day data graph from that location.
Many of these stations report tons of additional information (such as altimeter, max or min 24-hour temperatures, etc). These fields are currently displayed (seen above), however are not “prettified” at this time and may not have a unit associated with the measurement. Over the next months we intend to refine and clean up the display of these additional data points honing in on the most valuable additional data available.
Weather Shading Overlay and Weather Grid Data
We’ve combined the former weather grid overlay with the weather shading overlay. Numeric temperature values are now displayed on the weather shading layer at the center of the 2.5km grids, zooming in is required. Subtle differences in color can be challenging to interpret so these numeric readouts help give more precision. NOAA spot forecasts are still available via right click “NOAA Forecast” (seen in above screenshot). This is available even when this overlay is not displayed. The closest available spot forecast will load in a new tab without requiring searching for an individual forecast grid dot to click on.
“Your” Data Overlay
This layer now displays all map objects from your maps and any team maps from team(s) that you are a member of. You can use the “your tracks” filter to display only tracks from saved maps. Tracks are actually traveled and recorded via GPS, either in the CalTopo app or imported via a file that has preserved time/gps data.
Shared CalTopo Maps Overlay
This layer has gotten some filtering improvements as well including displaying only tracks (ensuring that the route has actually been travelled) as well as sorting only popular shared maps that other users have bookmarked and found useful. Additional future improvements are planned to ensure shared maps are easier to find and sort through.
For members of a single team there is no change to this layer. If you are a member of multiple teams you now can select between teams using a drop down instead of an individual shared location layer for each team. The shared location layer now includes the option to display a short tail for each user being tracked in order to infer rate and direction of travel. In order to record a complete track users still need to record track from their device, though additional improvements to this functionality are forthcoming.